Innovation That Matters

The micro-robot compared to the size of a coin | Photo source Purdue University

Back-flipping micro-robot delivers medicine into human organs

Health & Wellbeing

Designed by a team from Indiana’s Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, the device could be used for diagnostics as well as treatments

Spotted: The micro-robot, which is the size of a few human hairs, moves as directed by an external magnet. As the magnet rotates, the robot flips backwards or sideways, a movement designed to allow it to move through uneven bodily terrain. The researchers tested the robot in the colon, as the organ has fluids moving in the opposite direction and a very rough surface to navigate.

Medicines loaded onto the robot disperse slowly and steadily once the device reaches the correct location. In order to deliver an adult-sized portion of medicine, multiple micro-robots would be needed for each patient. Provision of such targeted treatments could help reduce or eliminate some of the more common and painful side effects of a number of different treatments, including cancer, and indeed the project is part of Purdue’s Centre for Cancer Research work.

By using inexpensive polymers and metals, the team ensures that the manufacturing process is swift, doesn’t require special machinery and is a cost-effective method of treatment. Future development of the device will focus on its diagnostic abilities and ways to reduce the amount of preparation needed for various treatments and procedures.

The human body is complex, and micro-robots are increasingly being used in the development of nanotechnology in healthcare. Springwise has spotted thread-like medical robots breaking up cerebral blood clots, and glass nano-lasers being used to identify early biomarkers of disease.

Written by: Keely Khoury

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